In trying to become healthier, the popular New Year’s resolution has long been to try to lose weight, aiming for a certain number on the scale. However, for many people, the scale — with its constant fluctuations — can be a source of frustration. What’s more, research shows people who are dissatisfied with their weight are more likely to yo-yo diet, less likely to be active and have worse health than those who don’t place as much emphasis on the number. That’s why separating yourself from the digits on a scale can help you focus instead on forming health and fitness habits that make a lasting impression on your overall physical, mental and emotional well-being. Here are five worth striving for this year:
Resolutions can miss the mark if they’re shrouded in negativity. As in: “I’m giving up dessert.” Instead, flip it around to focus on the positive and resolve to add more healthy foods to your diet, suggests Erin Clifford, a Chicago-based health and wellness coach. This also means you don’t have to rely on self-control or restriction this year. One of her favorites: strive to eat at least five servings of non-starchy veggies and two servings of fruit per day. “Filling up on produce will naturally crowd out other less nutrient-dense foods you may be trying to cut back on,” she says. You can easily hit the mark by resolving to fill half your plate with veggies at each meal, plus have a piece of fruit with breakfast and one as a snack.
Meeting up with friends or family often revolves around food and alcohol. Instead, “get a little creative beyond drinks and dinner and plan fitness-based activities,” says Clifford. For instance, sign up for a 5K and train together on Saturday mornings instead of going to brunch, meet up for a Friday night candlelight yoga class instead of happy hour or drive to a local nature preserve for a Sunday afternoon hike.
For many busy professionals, reading is something that’s been kicked to the wayside, says Clifford. Picking up the habit again this year could actually help you sleep better. By setting a relaxing bedtime routine (i.e., one that involves a good book) helps your body and mind wind down in preparation for sleep. “I recommend clients turn off their devices a half hour before bed and read a book that puts you in a mentally calm space,” she says. Alternatively, keep a gratitude journal and take this time to write five things that you’re grateful for that day.
This year, find your ‘no’ button and ignore any FOMO guilt, says Clifford. “It’s easy to fall into the fear of missing out trap and try to show to every dinner party and event. But, if you don’t want to go, don’t,” she says. “This doesn’t just apply to in-the-moment outings, but future ones, too.” For instance, if someone asks you to participate in organizing an event in the future and you don’t have the time or desire to do so at this very moment, politely say no. “If you don’t want to do it today, you likely won’t want to do it in three months. You have every right to say no,” adds Clifford. The result: You’ll open yourself up to new opportunities that you really do want to do and enjoy, and it’ll help preserve your energy to crush your goals.
This year, vow to keep your bottle filled with water (you can try sparkling or fruit slices to jazz it up) and sip from it regularly throughout the day. Research in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics shows upping your water intake — even by small amounts — is associated with less saturated fat, sugar and sodium consumption. You can easily track your hydration with an app like MyFitnessPal to meet your goals, says Clifford.